Not enough homes are being built in the UK to meet needs, while a small number of volume house-builders deliver quantities of generic housing in chunks as long as the market is booming. But what happens when people get together and think about what they need - rather than what the house-builders want to give them? Can we re-prioritise liveability over short-term profit? In other countries, it is relatively common for people to build their own homes and for self-provision to represent a viable procurement route for housing.
Carried out in collaboration with the architecture school of the University of Sheffield, our practice-based research project presented a model for how people in the UK might engage collectively in the production of housing and demonstrated that the aspiration of building your own home is not just for the well-off. The outcome was a report, Motivating Custom Build, and an animated website http://www.collectivecustombuild.org/, which provides a rich and lively online resource for people who want to get together and build their own homes.
We showed how virtual communities, based around shared needs and interests, can coalesce via social media. Coming together enables them to take advantage of the opportunities that come from working together: economies of scale, shared access to supply chains, off-site manufacture, mutual support and sharing of risk. Embedded local support ensures that planning permissions progress smoothly, while the pre-sale of the housing reduces financial risk. Pioneering projects like these can prove a catalyst for more traditional housing projects and even unlock home-building opportunities on challenging sites: town-edge sites, awkward brownfield sites and large, derelict buildings.
We made the connection with a number of important trends such as the rise of “pro-sumption”, driven by the rise of online platforms such as YouTube, Wikipedia and AirBnB that empower ordinary people to both consume and produce content and services for themselves and to form powerful digital communities that enable them to aggregate their collective knowledge and purchasing power; crowd-funding is another important development with immense potential to facilitate such a model of housing production.
This is a uniquely child-friendly model for the creation of housing. Through intergenerational discussions about the form and clustering of homes, the needs and desires of children and young people can be articulated and prioritised.
Architect: Ash Sakula
Cristina Cerulli, Fionn Stevenson and Sam Brown - School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
Home Improvements Knowledge Exchange
David Birkbeck - Design for Homes Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Web Design: Sam Brown with Hush
Animation: Ash Sakula with Wrench & Franks